Water Quality Articles | Written By Actual Experts – Tagged "GenX" – Hydroviv
Digging Into The Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database

Digging Into The Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder   

This past week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a website where people punch in their zip code, and view contaminants found in their water.  As a company that uses water quality data to optimize each customer’s water filter, we applaud EWG for putting in the enormous amount of time & effort to build the database so the public can learn about their water.  Unfortunately, we are seeing that these data are being used to generate inflammatory headlines, which can leave consumers confused and unnecessarily panicked.   

We will be updating this blog post as more questions come in.  If you have your own question, please reach out to us (hello@hydroviv.com).  One of our water nerds will do their best to get back to you very quickly, even if it’s outside of our business hours.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Updated July 31, 2017

Are All Potential Contaminants Listed In The EWG Tap Water Database?  

No.  The EWG Tap Water Database pulls data from municipal measurements, but municipalities are only required to test for certain things.  Simply put, you can’t detect what you don’t look for.  One example of this can be seen by punching in Zip Code 28402 (Wilmington, North Carolina) into the EWG Tap Water Database.  GenX, a chemical that has been discharged into the Cape Fear River by Chemours since PFOA since 2010, is not listed, even though it’s been in the center of a huge topic of conversation for the past 2 months in the local media.

Why Is The “Health Guideline” Different Than The “Legal Limit?”

The two different thresholds use different criteria.  For example, the “Health Guideline” cited by EWG for carcinogens is defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer, while the “Legal Limit” refers to the MCL which is the limit that triggers a violation by EPA.  The OEHHA's criteria are established by toxicological techniques, while the EPA limits are negotiated through political channels.  We wrote an article that addresses this topic in much more detail for those who are interested.

Why Am I Just Learning About This Now?

The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act requires municipalities to make water quality test data public in Consumer Confidence Reports.  These reports are required to talk about the water's source, information about any regulated contaminants found in the water, health effects of any regulated contaminant found above the regulated limit, and a few other things.  As discussed before, the data in the EWG report use different criteria than the EPA, and it's hard for people to make sense of what's what.  

Are The Data Correct If My Water Comes From A Private Well?

No.  The EWG Tap Water Database only has data for municipal tap water.  Private wells are completely unregulated, and there's no requirement to conduct testing.  If you'd like us to dig into our additional water quality databases to help you understand likely contaminants in your private well, we're happy to do so.  We don't offer testing services, but we're happy to help you find an accredited lab in your area, give advice on which tests to run, and help you interpret the results!  We offer this service for free.

What About My City's Water Quality?

Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water.  As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support!  Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters.  Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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GenX Contamination In Drinking Water:  What You Need To Know

GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

There has been some major news coverage about "GenX" and other pre GenX perfluoroalkyl chemicals contamination in North Carolina.  Whenever something like this makes it into the news, the facts can quickly become obscured, so the aim of this article is to summarize a few key things to know about GenX and other perfluoroalkyl chemicals in drinking water.

What Is GenX?

GenX chemical structure Chemours

GenX is a trade name for a chemical (deduced structure shown above) that went into production around 2010 as an alternative to a perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8) in the synthesis of  PTFE (ie Teflon).  GenX is therefore essential for the production of common household products including non-stick pans, firefighting foam, and common outdoor fabrics (e.g. Gore-Tex).

Why Do We Care About GenX And Chemicals Like It?

It's pretty simple:  1.  These chemicals are known to be toxic (and this link too)  2.  They are persistent in the environment, which means that they don't break down, and can contaminate water far from the contamination source.

Is GenX Regulated By EPA?

No.  Which means that there are no regulatory limits, and municipalities are not required to test for it.  There are a lot of chemicals that fall into this category.

Why Is This Such A Big Problem In North Carolina?

A company called Chemours (which was originally spun out of Dupont) produces GenX at a plant in Fayetteville, NC.  Discharge from this plant contaminates the Cape Fear watershed.  

What Are Official Positions On The Situation?

Dupont:  In summary, they are saying that even though Chemours is a Dupont spinoff company, they have no comment because it's now a separate entity.

Chemours:  Lips are largely sealed right now

Municipalities in Southeast North Carolina:  "We are in full compliance of Federal Regulations"

Hydroviv:  No kidding.  You can't be out of compliance if it's not a regulated chemical.

How To Remove Or Filter GenX And Other Fluoroalkyl Compounds From Drinking Water

GenX is an unregulated trade chemical, and there are no standard test methods to measure it, test a filter's effectiveness against it, or consensus performance specifications. Any filter company that talks about being "rated" or "certified" for GenX is not being honest.  Because of this, we are left in the frustrating position of trying to predict how to best remove GenX from drinking water, without any solid way to conduct performance tests. 

We get a lot of questions about the effectivness of reverse osmosis (RO) in the removal of these compounds.  While we are unaware of internal testing done by our competitors who make RO systems, we would expect RO systems with a high rejection rate to have a reasonable chance of removing GenX.  

At Hydroviv, we custom-build water filters using different technology than reverse osmosis.  Basically, we custom-formulate filter cartridges with filtration media that best matches the problems in each customer's water.  There's a lot of proprietary stuff behind what we do, but in the name of transparency we wanted to give more information that we'd normally give about what we are doing to formulate filters for highly soluble compounds like GenX.

1.  We formulate our submicron carbon blocks with a blend of activated carbons and elevated levels of a highly porous metal oxide sorbant blend that other fluoroalkyl compounds have been shown to stick to in the scientific literature.

2.  We tighten up the pore sizes of our filters, which slows down the flow and increases the amount of time that the water is in contact with the filtration media, thus improving the overall effectiveness of the filter, when compared to granular or powdered media.

Even though we've taken these steps, we feel like we need to be transparent and remind readers that because there is no standard way to measure GenX or performance specifications to test a filter against... we can't provide 3rd party performance data in the same way that we can for lead, chromium 6, VOCs...  It's incredibly frustrating, but in a way... we're in uncharted territory

Filters with these considerations can be ordered through our product's page, and our experts will automatically use your shipping address to know if you are part of the impacted region.  

We recommend that people take advantage of our "Help no matter what" approach to technical support.  We have been staffing our live chat line through extended hours to answer questions that people may have.  If our chat line is busy, you can drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.  We will answer as soon as we can.

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